Griffins vs IceHogs Western Conference Semifinals Preview
Sunday night when the Griffins defeated the Toronto Marlies for the 3rd time in a row, the Griffins became just the 11th team in AHL history to come back and win a best of five series after being down 2-0. Now it's time to look ahead to their next opponent as the 2nd round (or semifinals, if you prefer) gets underway tonight between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate Rockford IceHogs.
Games between Grand Rapids and Rockford are usually fast paced, eventful, and full of animosity. There's an entertaining rivalry between these teams, and through the regular season they were pretty evenly matched.
|ICEHOGS||Reg. Season Head To Head||GRIFFINS|
|Mark McNeill & Ryan Harman (5)||Point Leader||Andy Miele(8)|
|Mark McNeill & Matt Carey (4)||Goal Leader||Andy Miele(4)|
|Michael Leighton 3-2-0-0||Starting Goalie Record||Tom McCollum 3-3-0-0|
Five of Anthony Mantha's 33 points came against Rockford this season, maybe he really likes scoring against them and he'll break out this series. That would be pretty fantastic for him given what's been said about him recently.
The IceHogs haven't played since April 29th when they swept the 2014 Calder Cup winning Texas Stars, meanwhile the Griffins had Monday off and practice yesterday after defeating Toronto on Sunday. The Griffins didn't play well in the first 2 games against the Marlies, but they continued to improve as the series went on and I think getting right back at it will help them keep that trend going. The series against the Marlies was intense and very physical (including a lot of extra curricular shoving, hitting, spearing, and punching), and the Griffins discipline was a key to winning the series. This one against Rockford is going to be similarly demanding, and it's a best of 7 (or race to 4) so they'll likely play more games this time around.
Ok, it's not a playoff series until we revisit a bench clearing brawl between the teams. The Griffins and Marlies had one earlier this season, and the Griffins and IceHogs had an even bigger one a couple years ago.
The date was January 19, 2013, the place was Rockford Illinois. The Griffins were beating up on the IceHogs on the scoreboard and tension was growing at an alarming rate. Midway through the 2nd period, a huge brawl started, the bench cleared and even the goalies fought (poor Petr Mrazek). Don't take my word for it though, you can see it here and here. The box score from that night is about a mile long, thanks to the list of penalties that totaled 231 minutes when the final horn sounded. Five players and 1 coach were suspended after that night, Louis-Marc Aubry and Rob Flick 6 games each for being the first on their teams to leave the bench, Kyle Beach, Kenndal McArdle and Wade Brookbank 1 game each, and Rockford coach Ted Dent was suspended 2 games. Nothing that volatile has happened between the teams since, but it gives you an idea of how much these guys love each other. The Griffins also set a franchise scoring record with their 11 goals in that game and a franchise penalty record with 91. Good times.
After their 1st round victories here's the stats breakdown for both teams. Yes, Teemu Pulkkinen leads the league in goals after 1 round, all is as it should be.
|Texas Stars||Opponent||Toronto Marlies|
|Phillip Danault (4)||Points Leader||T.Pulkkinen & A.Miele (6)|
|P.Danault & Spencer Abbott (2)||Goals Leader||Teemu Pulkkinen (6) Leads AHL|
|Ville Pokka (3)||Assists Leader||Mark Zengerle (5)|
|Phillip Danault (+5)||Plus/Minus Leader||Xavier Ouellet (+2)|
|Spencer Abbott (2)||Power Play Goals||A.Athanasiou & T.Pulkkinen (2)|
|None||Shorthanded Goals||Tomas Nosek (1)|
No Griffins defenseman has scored a goal yet, though they do have a combined 9 assists which is 30% of total Griffins helpers. Scoring from the forward lines has been pretty evenly distributed, except that Teemu Pulkkinen had to go and skew things with his 6 goals. Then we have Andreas Athanasiou's line with a respectable 4 goals.... all of with AA scored himself.
Jeff Blashill said he didn't plan to make any lineup changes for the Griffins to start the series, so we'll probably see the same lines as in game 5. Here's what they looked like.
The Expected Lineups
|Teemu Pulkkinen||Tomas Nosek||Jeff Hogan|
|Kevin Porter||Andreas Athanasiou||Anthony Mantha|
|Tyler Bertuzzi||Andy Miele||Mark Zengerle|
|Alden Herschfeld||Louis-Marc Aubry||Marek Tvrdon|
|Alexey Marchenko||Nathan Paetsch|
|Brian Lashoff||Nick Jensen|
|Brennan Evans||Xavier Ouellet|
|Thomas McCollum (starting)|
Zach Nastasiuk remains out with an undisclosed injury (presumably a concussion).
Jeff Hoggan - Andy Miele - Mark Zengerle
Teemu Pulkkinen - Nathan Paetsch
Marek Tvrdon - Tomas Nosek - Andreas Athanasiou
Xavier Ouellet - Alexey Marchenko
Kevin Porter - Andreas Athanasiou
Alexey Marchenko - Brennan Evans
Tomas Nosek - Andy Miele
Brian Lashoff - Nick Jensen
Here's the 2nd round schedule, and where you can listen to and watch the games.
|Game 1||Wednesday, May 6||7 p.m.||Grand Rapids|
|Game 2||Friday, May 8||7 p.m.||Grand Rapids|
|Game 3||Wednesday, May 13||8 p.m.||Rockford|
|Game 4*||Thursday, May 14||8 p.m.||Rockford|
|Game 5*||Sunday, May 17||5 p.m.||Rockford|
|Game 6*||Tuesday, May 19||7 p.m.||Grand Rapids|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, May 20||7 p.m.||Grand Rapids|
|* If necessary|
Where to listen: WOOD Radio 106.9 FM and AM 1300
Where to watch: AHL live has a $10.99/game subscription option (in additon to their other options) if you want to catch a game. If you happen to live in the Rockford area, the games will be on tv (here's the list of channels)
If you're watching the game tonight, feel free to use this as a live game thread.